Sunday, July 17, 2016

Joie de Vivre vs The Haters

Allons enfants de la patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'etendard sanglant est levé! (bis) - "La Marseillaise"
"Appreciate what is happening in this photo.

This G7 leader decided to bare his hairless chest in a salmon-pink shirt, and slip into curvy white jeans (there isn't a straight guy alive that can pull off white jeans without irony—don't even bother disagreeing with me), and shake his baby-maker under a high, July sun while being hosed down by a hundred water pistols wielded by all manner of race and colour along the straight, L, G, B, T, and Q spectrum." - Written by Theo Ward, photo by Nathan Denette:

And a few days later we have the carnage inflicted by a hater; carnage at the Promenade des Anglais at Nice. Then black men shot by cops in America. Then cops shot at Baton Rouge. Then more cops shot today at Baton Rouge.

Meanwhile in the U.S.A. Donald Trump is promoting ethnic cleansing (if stopping all Muslims from entering the US and expelling undocumented immigrants isn't ethnic cleansing , then I don't know what it is). And what about Muslims who were born here - where does he intend to export them to?

The haters. The blamers of others for their own misfortune. The xenophobes. The Australians who draped themselves in Australian flags and called Australians from Lebanon "Lebos". Who punched then in their faces.

Pauline Hanson in Australia. Another hater.

The Jew haters.

The proponents of Sharia law.

The man who honor-killed his own sister in Pakistan the other day. Qandeel Baloch whose "crime" was to aspire to being a model.

Another hater - a Facebook administrator from a rural Australian Facebook site who just last week sent me an unsolicited venomous email, complaining that I was a Hillary Clinton voter.

Compare these haters with the joie de vivre of being the Prime Minister of Canada at a LBGT parade on a sunny day in Toronto.

I don't know about you, but having sex with 26 virgins up in the sky wouldn't do it for me.

Like Charlie Hebdo, Justin Trudeau, and the diners at Nice who rushed from the restaurant on the Promenade des Anglais, to cover the bodies of the dead with table-cloths, I prefer life over death.

I want to live in a country:
  • where people cannot legally carry assault weapons on the streets of cities -
  • where children are not locked up in prisons in tropical jungles - that has a decent health system for ALL citizens
  • where the leader of a major political party does not believe in ethnic cleansing -
  • where hundreds to thousands of its people are not killed by terrorists
  • where a significant number of the population does NOT think it is an OK thing to legislate that is an OK thing for gays to be refused service in restaurants 
  • where there is no Sharia law
  • where there are night-times over 90% of the year
  • where it is not OK for right-wing political leaders to call on the voters to "Ditch the Bitch" when for once in its history the PM is a woman
Guess that leaves New Zealand ...

Vive la France!
Vive Charlie Hebdo!
Vive la champagne!

Vive la vie!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Beyond the Winter of our Discontent

I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them - from Richard III, Shakespeare

I usually start my post with a few lines from a song. But this is June 2016, and no time for singing - the above lines from "Richard III" seem more apt in this glorious summer of 2016.

I have lived through four elections in New York - two of which were won by George W. But I have never felt the fear that accompanies this one.

Sunday morning in the nail salon - a weekly ritual that I indulge myself in. Sitting at the nail-dryer. A woman in her early thirties -  a nail-dryer neighbor who I have never seen before - speaks to me. "I love your tee-shirt," pointing to the back which reads
Human Rights are Women's Rights!
Hillary Rodham Clinton
For President! 2016

"My grandparents were Irish", she goes on to explain. Adding that she can leave this country anytime she wants - taking her husband and baby to anywhere in Europe. Nothing new - heaps of us have been working out our exit strategy.

So many people making jokes - about Canada needing a wall to keep out the kale-eaters. The emergence of "Maple Match", the website for Americans seeking Canadian spouses so they can emigrate in November if necessary. Trump suing comedian Bill Maher for $5 million for his orangutan sex joke - though that was no joke.

She goes on to express her fear, a fear that had not crossed my mind anytime in my 20 years of living in America. But it crosses my mind now!

Until today I had worried of course that Trump could win the Presidency. But my fear had been mainly focused on the man and the damage done.

My nail-salon neighbor enlightens me.

Win or lose - she is getting the hell out of Dodge! "I never know when I might be sitting next to one of them." And (in a whisper), "A Trump supporter."

We are living in a county where eleven million people voted for the man. And then there are the Sanders supporters. Twenty percent have said they will vote for Trump. Which makes one wonder why they supported Sanders in the first place.

So counting the Sanders fanatics and the number of "documented" adults living in America, that means there is a 10% chance that the person sitting next to me on the subway is a Trump supporter.

Scene from "On the Beach", State Library, Melbourne
Of course it isn't true of people in New York. We are different here. Surely.

"There Is Still Time ... Brother", the sign reads outside Melbourne's State Library in Stanley Kramer’s haunting post-apocalyptic movie "On The Beach" - as radiation gradually descends southward from the northern hemisphere, wiping out all mankind.

Still, I am given new courage as I walk back home to my apartment. All around me are African Americans, Africans, and Hispanics. Many of them notice my tee-shirt and give me the thumbs up. There is still time, sister!

I started with the words of the Bard. But to be really gloomy, I will end with the words of the songwriter Dory Previn.

I've seen him in the headlines
And on the evening news
I saw him on the sideline
When stones were thrown at Jews

And marching in Montgomery
Pretending that he cared
I saw him wink as though
Some old conspiracy were shared

He was in the crowd in Dallas
At the close of Camelot
I spotted him on campus
When the students had been shot

In an oriental village
With civilians left to rot
He was hanging out with soldiers
Trading heroin for pot and he was
Smiling, smiling - Doppelgänger

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

On Mansplaining and Kale

I'm just an old fashioned girl with an old fashioned mind
Not sophisticated, I'm the sweet and simple kind.
I want an old fashioned house, with an old fashioned fence
And an old fashioned millionaire. - "Just An Old Fashioned Girl", Eartha Kitt

Three Men in the Peak District, England
Mansplaining and Kale - two things I know next to nothing about. And never want to.

They are not -  as far as I can discern new technologies or new discoveries -  so how come we didn't hear about them until recently?

I suspect that mansplaining is a bit like man-caves. They might have sort-of existed earlier, but no one thought to give  names. Like memes. Or maybe they ARE memes. Do memes even have memes?

But back to mansplaining - I think from the sound of it, that it is about how men like to talk a lot - to be the center of the conversation, to interrupt women. My gripe with it isn't that it is not real, or that it doesn't describe something that happens, but that people - especially women - like to write about it, like to analyze it. That they try to work out how men work.

I remember back in the early nineties when I was a lecturer at a university in Australia, there were classes for women lecturers on how to get along with male lecturers, especially how to be successful in "meetings". I have forgotten most of what was taught, except for one thing which I remember because I actually tried it a few times.

Three Men In NYC
The person educating us, a woman, pointed out how the men who got the most attention were the ones who, when it was their turn to speak, spend several seconds arranging the papers on the table in front of them, shifting  their posture, adjusted  their glasses. Maybe took a sip of water.

In short, they made everyone wait. The effect was that they exuded confidence;   people waited eagerly to hear them speak. Surely what they had to say was important.

Women on the other hand, when given a chance to speak at faculty meetings lurched forward in their seats, hurried to speak the second they were given their turn,  and rushed their sentences. Thereby appearing less confident, less dominant, and by speaking so fast, less eloquent.

I have watched the man-talking-at-meetings-thing ever since that women-awareness class at Victoria University,  and it is true. Whether it be academics or business men or hippies. The way to gain complete attention, to appear important,  is to make people wait.

After that  class in the early 90s  I decided to put it into practice that way of appearing important, of making people wait to hear what I had to say, and though my attempts have been unsuccessful, I have tried anew over the years. I will move in my chair, rearrange my notes, take a sip of water. And what happens?

Three Men In Edinburgh, Scotland
Some man interrupts me and I lose my chance to talk. Instead of appearing self-assured and eloquent, I end up appearing to be an uncertain human being who is probably avoiding speaking.

This just bolsters my belief that for men to change.  THEY have to want to change. Just like heavy smokers. They won't give up till they really WANT to give up. We women can talk about man-caves and mansplaining till the cows come home.

Men have to find their own enlightenment. It is not women's job. If there is anything more boring than mansplaining,  it is women talking about mansplaining. We won't get better at speaking in public by copying male tactics. This is because people - men and women - have already and unconsciously formed an opinion of us,  just because we are women.
Dummies at Bloomies

I recently started a thread on a Facebook group on the subject of women feeling that they have to understand and enlighten men. I expected to be howled down, even though the post was meant to be humorous.

" Just read yet another thing on "mansplaining". I think women do themselves a disservice analyzing men things. I think we should just let men have their own self-awareness stuff and (except for topics relatiing to verbal and physical abuse) we should let them go on their merry way and just use them for sex, or if they are good-looking, for adornment."

But the only  person who took  the bait was a woman.

Which sort of proves my point in a way -  but  I have trouble explaining how.

Of course if I were a man I could mansplain it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Photo Shoot

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only - "It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)" - Dylan, 1965
42nd Street, Manhattan
"My god look at your HAIR!" he said. "That won't do at all."

I think he was doing his Larry David impersonation. But I was not amused.

He'd called the day before wanting to take photos. My dentist. He was giving a presentation. To the American Association of Dentists or some such organization. I am one of his most ambitious, challenging, and successful cases. He had taken photos of my teeth at each stage of his year long work way back in 2011.

My wonderful New York dentist. He'd saved my teeth. My life in fact. When I'd wandered into his 40th Street practice about five years ago, I had thought I was about to lose all my teeth. The casualties of 1950's socialist dentistry in Australia. Another reason NOT to vote for Bernie Sanders.

But I digress.

I remembered how dreadful my teeth had been. And how excellent his work. So when he called wanting more shots, I said of course, when do you need me? Tomorrow? Sounds good.

Tomorrow became today, and it did not start off well.

A man had died a few yards from my apartment building. He'd been stabbed a block away earlier in the morning. I saw it on the early morning news. He'd managed to crawl about half a block almost to the corner of 94th and Second. A cab picked him up. Too late.

Everyone was quiet in the lobby when I exited the elevator. No "Have a nice day" from the doorman. It just seemed wrong.

Homeless Woman, Grand Central
But half an hour later on the bus down Second Avenue on my way to work I'd forgotten about it. Such is the stuff that we humans are made of.

Several hours later I was at an optometrist. Looking forward to new glasses. A routine check-up. I was excited. I was getting a pair of Lindberg frames. But I was thinking of the man. The stabbing. My mind wandered. Left eye. Right eye. I couldn't make it to the third row of letters.

She looked about ten. Efficient. Smart. Pretty. Asian. What was she saying? Retinal scarring? What did she mean? A specialist? Cornell?

Suddenly the cost of the frames didn't matter. I paid. I smiled. I shoved it to the back of my mind. Where the bad things lurk.

Eyes left! Walk south down Madison. Eyes right. Next stop the photo shoot. Teeth time!

There'd been a slight breeze as I stumbled south down Madison. A few wisps of my pulled-back hair had escaped. But I was only thinking about my eyes.

On the way up on the elevator in the pre-war building on 40th Street,  I couldn't read the floor numbers on the display. "Is this the sixth floor?" I asked a man with a guide dog. He shrugged. I guess he didn't speak English.

Somehow I arrived at my dentist's office. That's when he said about my hair. I stood there speechless.

 "Oh it doesn't matter," he said. "It is good if you look a whole lot older; it'll make it seem that my dental work lasts even longer."

Jesus Christ I told him. A man died near my apartment building this morning and now I am going blind.

Unphased as is his way - "I can recommend you to a good retinal specialist, I'll just get his card."

I told him not to bother. He took some teeth photos. His assistant had to put medieval torture instruments in my mouth so my lips weren't in the way of his Nikon. She stuck a mirror in what space remained in my oral cavity. "No good! You BREATHED!" Was he talking to me or his assistant?  I heard her apologizing. We tried again. And again. And so it went till he got some perfect shots.

More torture - this time with the hygienist, cleaning, X-rays. And I was free to leave.

The receptionist, a lovely woman, was giving me kindly smiles. The hygienist was telling me I'd need a molar pulled. My dentist was telling her not yet Miss Juliff needs to get her eyes fixed first. It is not a good day for Miss Juliff. A man was stabbed to death near her apartment. I told her to blog it.

"Send me the link!" he called as I fumbled for my coat.

Of course he is a wonderful dentist. I even told him so. It is the only thing you've got going for you I told him. He saved my teeth five years ago.

 He's a lovely man. A real New Yorker. I'd recommend him to anyone.